Madras HC | Does buyer’s knowledge about dispute in title of subject property, will make him liable for offence of cheating, forgery and making false document? HC answers

Madras High Court: N. Anand Venkatesh, J., while addressing a matter expressed that:

“…a transaction hit by lis pendens would not result in the same being rendered void or illegal or of no effect. It will only be subject to the result of the litigation and the purchaser would be bound by the same.”

The instant case was with regard to the property originally belonging to a partnership firm which was subsequently dissolved and the same was said to have been vested on the de facto complainant by virtue of decree. Thereafter the building in the property was demolished to put up new construction and a joint venture agreement was also entered into with a developer.

But since the agreement did not go through the property continued to be vacant.

Prosecution’s case was that the petitioner’s vendor had trespassed into the property and had created documents and managed to obtain a patta.

Petitioner knew about the dispute between the parties and the pending criminal case against the vendor, yet they entered into the sale agreements and agreed to purchase properties including the property belonging to respondent 2. Ultimately, a registered sale Deed was executed in favour of the petitioners by undervaluing the property, after which the petitioners started taking steps to take possession of the property and on coming to know of the same, respondent 2 gave a complaint on the basis of which an FIR was registered against the vendor and petitioners.

Analysis and Decision

Bench noted that the petitioners came into the scene in 2016 when they entered into a sale agreement with the vendor Mr Iqbal. On agreeing to purchase certain items of properties which also included the subject property for a total sale consideration of Rs 4 crores.

Further, it was seen that out of the total sale consideration of Rs 4 crores, more than ninety percent of the sale consideration has been paid by way of RTGS transfer from the bank account maintained by the Petitioners. Thereafter, the patta has also been transferred in favour of the Petitioners. That apart, there was also a name transfer by the Corporation in the property tax records from the name of Mr Iqbal to the names of the Petitioners, respectively.

FIR was registered for the offences of making a false document and cheating. Without undertaking the exercise of a mini investigation, it had to be seen whether the offence was made out against the petitioners or not?

Dispute was with regard to the right and title over the subject property between respondent 2 and the vendor of the petitioners.

Vendor of the petitioners was positively claiming a right and title over the subject property and he believed that he was the owner of the property.

Further, it was observed that at the time when the sale deed was executed, in favour of the

Petitioners, and at the time when the parties entered into an agreement of sale, the suit filed by the 2nd Respondent had been dismissed for default, hence no compelling material was available that could have prevented the petitioners from purchasing the subject property.

Property was free from any encumbrance after it was purchased by Mr Iqbal in the year 2010.

It is now a well-settled position of law that even when a document is executed by a person claiming a property which is not his, that does not by itself satisfy the requirements of a false document as defined under Section 464 IPC. If it does not satisfy the requirements of Section 464 IPC, there is no forgery and if there is no forgery, automatically neither Section 467 nor Section 471 IPC will be attracted. 

For the above position of law, Supreme Court referred to the decision in Mohd. Ibrahim v. State of Bihar, (2009) 8 SCC 751, Sheila Sebastian v. R. Jawaharaj, 2018 (3) MLJ (Crl) 39.

Even in the extreme case of branding the Petitioners as speculative buyers of the subject property, knowing fully well about the dispute in title over the subject property, that by itself does not amount to an offence of cheating, forgery and making of false document.

Allegations made by respondent 2 did not make out any offence against the petitioners and the continuation of investigation against the petitioners would be an abuse of process of law, which requires interference of the Court.

Hence in view of the above discussion, present petition was allowed.[Dr Subba Somu v. Inspector of Police, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 877, decided on 01-03-2021]


Advocates who appeared before the Court:

For Petitioners: Mr ARL. Sundaresan, Senior Counsel and Mr R. Umasuthan

For 1st Respondent: Mr A. Natarajan, State Public Prosecutor for R1

Asstd: by Mr M/Mohamed Riyaz Additional Public Prosecutor

Mr G. Mohanakrishnan Mr S. Janarthanan for R 2

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